Learning Hub | Website Design Inspiration

Custom Web Design Vs Website Templates: Which Is Right For Me?

November 20, 2015 | Jon Teodoro

The question of whether a business or organization should choose a custom web design versus a website template is a very common one. The truth is, most entities would benefit from either one, since both options each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, there is no clear “yes” or “no” answer. There is only a “best” answer.

To help you find out what the best option is, we will be outlining the five key factors that you should consider while making the decision on whether to build a fully customized website or stick with a template-based website.

Factor #1: Budget

If your budget is under $10,000, a template-based website is probably your best bet. Template-based websites help save a lot of time in regards to design since the visual direction and architecture is already laid out.

Keep in mind, however, there are limitations for customizing a pre-designed template. After a certain point, the additional development resulting from the excessive customization of a template can easily end up costing more than a custom website itself.

Summary: If you have a limited budget, your only option may be to go with a template website.

Factor #2: Brand

If establishing a brand is one of your top priorities, a custom website would be the best fit for your business. This is because branding is all about building an emotional connection and trust with your prospects and customers. You can’t create these connections without first catering to your target audience’s needs and pains.

With a custom website, you start with a blank slate: no design restrictions, no content limitations, and no worrying about if a suggested feature will work with a pre-built template’s code. This allows more time to be allotted for planning and strategizing how you can build trust with your prospects to get them to buy from you.

Summary: If building your brand is one of your main goals, go with a custom website.

Factor #3: User Experience

A custom web design is your best bet if you want to focus on optimizing your users’ experience on your website. Since your website’s visitors are going to be coming from desktops, tablets, phones, and laptops, you will need to focus on making your site easy to use on a variety of devices. A bad user experience could mean a bad first impression, and we all know how important it is to get that right.

Starting from scratch gives you the ability to craft your user experience to match your design and your business objectives. For example, if your main goal is to get people to submit a request for a quote, you can work with your web design company to build a page-by-page path that purposely drives them from your home page to your quote page. Within every touch point of that path, you can optimize the design and message to strategically drive them from one page to the next.

Summary: For the best user experience possible, go with a custom website.

Factor #4: Timeline

If you’re in a time crunch and you need something up in less than two months, then a template site is the only way to go. Custom websites require a lot of collaboration and planning to develop. With a custom web design, stakeholder interviews, industry research, and your website’s architecture, all need to be solidified first before moving onto the design stage. These three things alone could take months to execute.

With a template-based site, however, you have the ability to jump straight to the design. From there, you will need to only develop your content, customize the look of your website, and optimize the code for performance.

Summary: If you’re one a restricted timeline, you will need to go with a template website.

Factor #5: Long Term Scalability

If you want to continually add on features and functionalities to your website, a template-based website can make things difficult.

Out of the box, template-based websites are meant to be a one-size fits all solution. Because of this, template websites always come with a ton of extra features. More features mean that there is more code you need to worry about, increasing the likelihood of coding conflicts when trying to extend the functionality of your website.

Going with a template-based website that has a lot of dormant features also means potentially slower load times. The effects of this are negligible if you have a low traffic website. However, if you plan on drawing in thousands of visitors on a monthly basis, the performance deficit will be very noticeable. Therefore, if scalability to a large audience is your goal, you would definitely want to go with a custom website.

Lastly, if you already know that you will be integrating some kind of third-party software, building a custom website from scratch gives developers the chance to prioritize compatibility with future add-ons.

Summary: If you plan on scaling up your website to handle thousands of visitors per month, or if you plan on integrating third-party software, go with a custom website.